The disease of alcoholism is often tied to two symptoms that allow it to perpetuate, sometimes undetected, over time – denial and validation. Though not specifically referenced in diagnostic criteria, both symptoms are widely-known to be associated with the disease. Both denial on the part of the person affected and a feeling of validation, either by the person or by family and friends, can serve as significant barriers to treatment and recovery.
Denial is one of the main mechanisms by which the cycle of alcoholism continues despite negative consequences. A person’s level of denial is usually tied to the strength of the addiction. This helps explain why some people drink despite losing a job or being threatened with divorce.
However, denial affects people to different degrees. Some people are more aware of problematic drinking than others, meaning they may be more receptive to treatment. New treatment methods are taking this fact into account and are altering therapy based on a person’s level of readiness for change.
According to a report from PsychCentral, family members and friends can also be in denial about their loved one’s behavior, explaining it away instead as depression, bad health, hot temperament, anxiety or various other conditions. Children of alcoholics may only recognize a problem upon growing up because of the denial that might have existed on both ends. Societal stigma regarding alcoholism often serves to further the cycle of denial; for this reason some families have chosen to simply ignore or hide the issue.
Well-meaning loved ones may also enable patterns of substance abuse without even knowing it. They often have good intentions but the results can be destructive. When those close the person living with addiction either validate or enable the patterns of consumption, those living with the disease are prevented from facing the consequences of their actions and the disease is allowed to continue.
If you feel like someone you care about may be living with addiction to alcohol, the experts at the Family Guidance Center can help. Addiction or dependence on alcohol is highly treatable with the right resources. Family Guidance Center can connect individuals and their families with resources which aid in understanding and working through issues underlying addiction. For more information on substance addiction, contact the Family Guidance Center.